Collecting, shooting and writing about firearms is one of my favorite hobbies. But not everyone is a “gun” person and not everyone wants one in the home. I’ve found, however, many people who actually profess a dislike for firearms are speaking from a platform that has been spoon-fed them over their lifetime. A person who dislikes the idea of firearms in the home may have numerous reasons for their viewpoint, but in the final analysis, those reasons are normally more visceral than logical.
This essay is important for everyone considering purchasing or maintaining a weapon in the home, either for defense or simply for sporting or collecting purposes. Please carefully consider what I have to say here. Personally, I have no stake in whether or not you decide to own a gun, but I have a stake in making sure you fully understand why you may be operating under some misconceptions about firearms in the home. This chapter will spend a great deal of time discussing many of the myths and misconceptions in as logical a manner as I can muster.
Have you read that a person who owns a firearm for personal defense is “X”-times more likely to have that firearm used against them? In truth, all available research has demonstrated that a homeowner faced with a need to brandish or use their personal weapon, is actually significantly less likely to have their weapon used against them than is a police officer, even though the officer has been trained in methods to retain their weapon during struggles with suspects. Dr. John R. Lott, Jr., Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute has exhaustively researched the topic of the defensive use of firearms and has come to some very interesting conclusions. Before deciding whether or not a gun in the home is right for you, I urge you to Google Dr. Lott and read his research. It’s interesting and very readable.
If you have children in your home and worry about safety, another study by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCJ-143454, entitled “Urban Delinquency and Substance Abuse,” August 1995, established that homes in which firearms are legally (and responsibly I might add) owned correlates with lower percentages of juvenile delinquency and drug use. Of course, critical thinking skills have to kick in here. Where are the majority of these guns owned? In the Midwest where hunting is an important part of many states, people who own and maintain firearms are normally recreational shooters and hunters, and their children have the benefit of very involved parenting and participation in outdoor recreational pursuits.
Lethal accidents, intentional homicides (including justifiable homicides) and suicides are a sad part of every society. Our society is different from most societies in that the private ownership of firearms is an issue of great importance in our national debate. Where countries across the world are progressively limiting their citizen’s private access or ownership to firearms, gun sales in America are increasing every year by huge numbers! One would think then, that the rate of all deaths by firearms should increase as well. Does it? The hue and cry is that more guns will lead to more accidents and violence! In fact – and it IS an undisputable fact, that despite the phenomenal increase in private firearms ownership; despite the increase in the number of states that allow concealed carry of firearms, both accidental deaths by firearms and firearms related homicide rates are not increasing in any statistically significant number and in most categories, they are decreasing dramatically! This leads a logical person to conclude that there will always be a certain per-capita percentage of accidental deaths, deliberate homicides and suicides involving firearms in a free society, irrespective of the ebb and flow of firearms ownership statistics.
It is a curious and interesting fact that we seldom if ever read about people successfully using guns for self defense. Yet we read about gun related homicides every day! Major media outlets will hardly ever print stories in which a citizen uses a firearm to thwart a crime against themselves or another. Yet Dr. Lott and another PHD, Dr. Gary Kleck, have conducted exhausting research which indicates U.S. citizens use firearms over two million times each year in defense of themselves or others! Only a small fraction of these cases involves the actual discharge of the firearm, but there are certainly enough of those incidents as well to demonstrate that private citizen’s kill or cause to be captured in the act of the commission of their crimes, several times more felons every year than do the police! Remember, I said “in the act.” Police are seldom present when the act of the commission of a crime is taking place. Therefore, the citizen is often all that stands between the criminal and success. If that citizen is armed and willing to risk life and limb to resist the criminal act, they are one-up on the police by virtue of simple proximity. Luckily, the mere presence of the firearm is often enough to end the threat against the citizen. One has to ponder what the murder rate would be in America, if private ownership of firearms was illegal and only the bad guys had guns.
So, do you own a gun? Do you feel you need one? Are you open to suggestions on the matter? I cannot suggest that anyone go out and purchase a firearm for personal defense. I can only make such decisions for myself and my family. Private firearms ownership is…well “private!” I can only suggest that such a decision be made with the utmost sobriety and concern for all the potential problems gun ownership brings with it, balanced by the potential benefits such ownership can offer. Let’s talk about the problems first, because I like to conclude with the positives.
I believe logical arguments have destroyed the myth that more guns cause “more” crime, but it is an incontrovertible fact that one normally cannot become the victim of a gun accident in the home, involving their personal firearm if they in fact don’t own one! So if one wants to remove every possibility of an accidental or negligent firearms mishap, they need only remove the firearms! But since far more people are killed every year a myriad of other activities not involving the use or ownership of firearms, one has to wonder just what life would be like if we removed all the hazards from our environment.
Statistical analysis may conclude that in areas with the highest private gun ownership rates, higher gun accident rates occur, particularly among the young. But, is this true? Can we also then assume that areas with higher numbers of home swimming pools will probably have higher rates of child drowning incidents; and that areas with higher populations of children, will probably have proportionally higher incidents of fatal accidents involving children; that areas with the highest teen populations will probably have the highest incidents of teen suicides and teen drug use and fatal vehicle accidents involving teen drivers? Of course! It would be idiocy to conclude otherwise.
Still, despite the statistic that suggests homes with backyard swimming pools have an X-times greater likelihood of having an occupant of that home drown, you do not find organizations like “Backyard Pool Control, Inc.”, or “Mother’s against Swimming Pools,” with organizational chapters springing up all across the nation trying to influence public opinion through hugely expensive ad campaigns. “Responsible” home owners would minimize the risks of a backyard pool, by accepting the responsibilities that go along with having a pool and then they’d jump in and enjoy it! The same is true for responsible gun ownership.
As I have said before: “Life is not safe.” If a person played the odds in everything they did, they would probably never purchase a gun for self defense. Nor would they wear seat belts – except within five miles of home – or a bicycle helmet or sunscreen. In fact, if one were to look at police statistics of actual officer-involved shootings, it could be suggested that the overwhelming majority of police officers would not need to go armed except in certain high-risk assignments. Yet, when was the last time you saw an unarmed cop, even in little towns with names like “Hog Heaven?”
So, why is it so easy for anti-gun people to ridicule those who make a conscious decision to own a firearm for defense? Because instinctively, they know and we accept that the chances we will ever need a firearm to defend ourselves are miniscule. It’s easy therefore, for people of a different mindset to make us feel silly by branding us paranoid. We may have a spouse or a significant other who does not share our inner suspicion that “it could happen.” Not one person would deride us for putting on a bike helmet before we ride, or a personal flotation device before we sail, but let them find out we have purchased a handgun “just in case” and the good-natured name-calling begins.
I would like to suggest something for you to mull over. What are the odds? Not great, certainly, but if it were possible to resurrect the violently dead, or simply interview them from the grave, what do you suppose their spectral response would be if the following question were posed: “Immediately prior to your death, what would you have estimated the chances were that you were going to be the victim of deadly violence?” And, if the supernatural connection lasted long enough, we might also ask them this question as well: “Now that you are dead, if you could have saved your life with a gun, and were given a second chance, would you own one?” Certainly, if we all had foreknowledge of events, we wouldn’t need a firearm or a bike helmet or a fire extinguisher. Well, the dead can’t talk to me, but the death scenes can. They tell me how the victim might have survived, had they considered things differently. I learn from their mistakes. You can too.
In many jurisdictions, there are prosecutors with political agendas that run contrary to the citizen’s right of self defense. Such partisan political hacks will try and make your life a living hell if you ever have to fire a gun in self defense. But, consider the alternative. At the risk of being morbid, ponder for a moment the absolute terror and agony you or a loved one may face in the event the long odds come calling to your house, and you are unprepared for it, or were unwilling to prepare. When they investigate the scene, would they find a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, or a bicycle helmet in your garage?
Believe me, I’m not trying to make NRA members out of all of you. I am simply trying to remove some of the false impressions you may have regarding defensive firearms because you may have come to the point in your life where you feel the need to keep a gun for self defense and are not sure what course of action to take. If this is so, you do not need to go overboard and purchase the latest whiz-bang combat shotgun, or high-capacity assault rifle or twenty-nine shot ninja-commando, super-dooper armor piercing pistol! (Actually, there is no such thing, but if there were, I’d like to shoot it!) A gun that served your Grandpa out in the field in the 50s can serve you in the home in the 21st Century just fine. There may be better choices, but your Grand-pappy’s twelve gauge shotgun or your Daddy’s deer-getter will do just fine in a pinch.
Many people ask police officers about certain scenarios, or what gun is best for this or that person or application. Police officers are not as a rule gun people, nor are they likely experts on civilian gun use or its attendant legalities. As for advice on shooting, it is highly probable that your “average” police officer will be less proficient with his or her duty firearm than your average shooting enthusiast is with their personal choice of weapons. That’s not a dig against cops. It’s reality. How can that be? Well, in many cases your average police officer will be carrying the very first or one of the very first weapons they were ever exposed to. Remember, I’m talking about “average.” It is a common myth that cops are “gun” experts. As a rule, they are not. On top of that, they will often be merely “adequate” in firearms proficiency!
In the end, the type of weapon you buy should be the gun that fits “you” best, the one you perform best with and the one you feel comfortable, confident and competent with. Then, decide how best to store the firearm keeping both safety and necessity in mind. Finally, learn the local, state and federal laws and abide by them! You will have to decide who will have access to the firearm and everything you do to familiarize yourself with it, they will have to do as well. Anything less is courting disaster.
In my next installment, we’ll discuss in more detail the options available and the pros and cons involved. Thanks for visiting, and leave a comment or question if you are so inclined. Until then, good shooting…or at least, good research.
If you enjoyed my writing style, you might check out my novel: “The Long-Shooters.”